Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare’s corporation shareholders will soon vote for clarity on the system’s abortion policies, Becker’s has learned.
An April 17 proxy memorandum was prepared and submitted by Rhia Ventures on behalf of one shareholder, the Seattle-based Marguerite Casey Foundation. The document asks Tenet’s corporation shareholders to vote “Yes” on an item which — if approved — would request the hospital operator report on its current policies regarding abortion availability.
“Clear and transparent policies are necessary to ensure that patients and doctors fully understand Tenet’s policy regarding emergency abortions, and are necessary for investors to assess legal, reputational, market or financial risks that may extend from the Company’s policies,” the memorandum says.
Tenet currently operates in 19 states that have adopted laws severely restricting abortion. It also owns and acquires many hospitals that publicly identify as Catholic facilities. Tenet says it follows the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which “may contradict its statement that it also follows ‘faith based commitments,'” according to the document, which asks the company to clarify which standards it requires Catholic hospitals to follow.
The document suggests there are legal concerns associated with blurry abortion regulations. For example, it references a suit five women filed against Tenet’s home state of Texas after they were initially denied emergency abortions at their local hospitals.Their physicians told them the abortion ban stopped them from providing care when they previously would have, and that they instead would have to wait until the women were sufficiently in crisis.
Rhia Ventures works with a number of institutional investors, but only began talking to hospital companies this year, Jessica Feeley, its associate director of communications, told Becker’s.
“There was a wave of new stories that came out after the Dobbs decision about how physicians in states where there had been an abortion ban enacted were very confused as to whether they could offer emergency abortion services to people in need,” Ms. Feeley said.
Rhia Ventures reached out to Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare with a similar request to clarify its abortion policy. HCA posted a statement in the legal disclosures segment of their website Dec. 20, clarifying their expectations of physicians in emergency medical circumstances.
However, Tenet provided “very, very little clarity,” according to Ms. Feeley. Tenet would not disclose which hospitals provide abortions, emergency or otherwise. The company also would not confirm if it was providing any additional guidance to physicians in states with strict abortion laws who might find themselves in sticky legal situations.
This was concerning for the Marguerite Casey Foundation, its vice president of finance and investments, Daniel Gould, told Becker’s.
“As investors, we do think there are clear legal and reputational risks that will contribute to long-term financial risk in the scenario where this confusion remains,” Mr. Gould said. “If this vote is not successful, that will run parallel to a reconsideration of our investment.”
The vote will take place May 25.
Tenet Healthcare did not respond to Becker’s request for comment. This story will be updated if more information becomes available.